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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
July 11, 2017

Front Page Feature Photo By CINDY BALZER

Gourmet Dining
This black bear caught a salmon feast recently at Herring Cove.
Front Page Feature Photo By CINDY BALZER


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Ketchikan: Browne tenders resignation from school board - Earlier today, Ketchikan School Board Member Misty Browne tendered her resignation from the board, effective immediately.  Browne was elected to the Board of Education for a three-year term in October 2015 with her term to expire October 2018.

Browne tenders resignation from school board

Misty Browne
Photo courtesy KBSD

School Board President Trevor Shaw in a prepared statement said, "Misty Browne has served as a passionate and engaged member of the Ketchikan School Board for almost five years; having served a three-year term from 2011 to 2014, and again serving from 2015 to 2017. Her commitment to the citizens and children of Ketchikan is appreciated beyond words. On behalf of the Board of Education, I would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to Misty for her years of service to our community. She truly was an amazing asset to our Board. We wish her the greatest success in her future endeavors." 

The Ketchikan Board of Education will consider acceptance of the resignation at the School Board meeting Wednesday night. If the resignation is accepted, the Board will have thirty days from then to fill the vacancy resulting from the resignation. The appointee will serve until a replacement is chosen by the voters in the October municipal election. - More...
Tuesday PM - July 11, 2017

Alaska: Alaska to Receive $332 Million in Federal Funds to Lower Health Insurance Premiums; State approved for insurance waiver to lower premiums for individual health insurance market - Governor Bill Walker announced today that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved Alaska’s State Innovation Waiver. The waiver stabilizes Alaska’s individual health insurance market, bringing in approximately $332 million to the Alaska Reinsurance Program over the next five years.  

“Health care costs are increasingly unaffordable for a growing number of Alaskans,” Governor Walker said. “This waiver provides relief from large premium hikes for 23,000 Alaskans who are currently insured through the individual market. I thank the Trump Administration, members of the legislature, and the congressional delegation for their efforts. I especially thank Division of Insurance Director Lori Wing-Heier for proposing this innovation for Alaska, which has also served as a model for other states.”

The Alaska Reinsurance Program uses federal money to re-insure claims for Alaskans with high-cost medical conditions, which reduces premiums for all of the roughly 23,000 Alaskans in the individual market.  This, in turn, reduces federal subsidies across the market.  The federal innovation waiver passes the savings from reduced federal tax credits back to the state government. Essentially, federal funds offset the price of insuring those with high-cost medical conditions.

Premiums in the individual market are expected to decrease by approximately 20 percent as a result of this program. With recent announcements of double-digit premium hikes and insurers exiting individual markets across the nation, many states have expressed interest in adopting Alaska’s model to stabilize their individual health insurance markets.

As a result of the waiver approval, more consumers in Alaska may have coverage, consumers will see lower premiums, and the state will receive pass-through funding to help offset a substantial portion of state costs for the state-operated reinsurance program.

Alaska predicts that an average of 1,460 additional individuals will have health insurance coverage due to the lower cost of healthcare through stabilization of the individual market.

“Alaska has among the highest health care premiums in the nation, and I’m pleased that the federal government has worked with the state to pursue innovative solutions for stabilizing our market,” said Alaska Division of Insurance Director Lori Wing-Heier.

U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) today commended the Trump Administration, including Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma, for working with the State of Alaska to grant a State Innovation Waiver under Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act. - More...
Tuesday PM - July 11, 2017

Southeast Alaska:
Forest Service Wants To Pay More In Money-Losing Timber Sale; Alaska Region Urges Off-Books Payments To Logger to Sweeten Tongrass Contract - After losing nearly $2 million on a major timber sale, U.S. Forest Service officials are pushing for additional payments to a Southeast Alaska logging company, according to documents posted Monday by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  In a significant departure, the requested payoffs are both outside the timber contract process and without a formal claim from the logging company said PEER.

The documents from the Forest Service Region Office for Alaska concern the Big Thorne timber sale on the Tongass National Forest.  A 2016 Washington Office review of that sale faulted the Region for allowing Viking Lumber Company located on Prince of Wales Island to cherry-pick more valuable trees and leave less valuable salvage trees standing, thus significantly shorting the taxpayer.

Although the company bid on this contract at its own risk, top Alaska Region Office officials are trying to engineer ways to supplement the taxpayer subsidy using shifting and seemingly specious rationales, according to PEER:

• On August 22, 2016 Regional Forester Beth Pendleton directed her staff to apply a retroactive “rate correction” to make up for “haul cost” differences which she characterized as a “material error,”  Two weeks later, Pendleton “rescinded” her material error directive in a September 7, 2016 memo which offered no explanation for the abrupt reversal; 

• In a May 31, 2017 memo to Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell, Acting Regional Forester Rebecca Nourse (Pendleton had been elevated to Acting Associate Chief) requests permission to negotiate “revised rates retroactive to the beginning of harvest activities” in order to prevent Viking from filing a  claim “which puts the Forest Service at risk of significant damages” adding that “Correcting the situation on Big Thorne…is a high priority.”; and

• Nourse states that this off-books arrangement is necessary because, “there is no contractual mechanism to correct these errors and inequities, which we think will cost the Purchaser money under the contract.” This time the basis is a claim the company is owed more timber volume. 

“These officials appear to value the interests of this timber company over the interests of the taxpayer,” stated Jeff Ruch, Executive Director of PEER which has been pressing for an independent audit of the Alaska Region timber sales. “Something is rotten in the State of Alaska – and it is not Tongass old growth.”

The Nourse memo also implies that the Alaska Region has pre-negotiated with Viking, indicating that the company is amenable to this ‘anticipated solution.”  Ironically, this plan is premised on the argument that it is “outside the scope of authority” for Forest Service staff to act yet cites no legal authority for the Chief to cut a new deal behind closed doors.  Moreover, the arrangement appears to bypass agency legal staff. - More...
Tuesday PM - July 11, 2017


Alaska: EPA Proposes to Withdraw Clean Water Act Restrictions for Pebble Mine - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to withdraw its July 2014 Clean Water Act Proposed Determination that would, if finalized, have imposed restrictions on the discharge of dredged or fill material associated with the potential “Pebble Mine” in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed. EPA is seeking public comment on whether to withdraw the Proposed Determination.

EPA Proposes to Withdraw Clean Water Act Restrictions for Pebble Mine

A view of Upper Talarik Creek which flows into Lake Iliamna in the Kvichak River watershed.
Photo courtesy EPA

EPA is consulting on the proposed withdrawal with federally-recognized tribal governments of the Bristol Bay region and with Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act Regional and Village Corporations with lands in the Bristol Bay watershed. The public comment and tribal consultation process allows EPA to hear from the public before final decisions are made. After the close of the public comment and tribal consultation process, the EPA will decide whether to issue a final withdrawal of the 2014 Proposed Determination. EPA is also requesting public comment on whether the EPA Administrator should review and reconsider a final withdrawal decision, if such a decision is made.

On May 11, 2017, EPA entered into a settlement agreement with the Pebble Limited Partnership to resolve litigation from 2014 relating to EPA's prior work in the Bristol Bay watershed in Alaska. The settlement provided the Pebble Limited Partnership (Pebble) an opportunity to apply for a Clean Water Act (CWA) permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before EPA may move forward with its Clean Water Act process to specify limits on the disposal of certain material in connection with the potential “Pebble Mine.”  - More...
Tuesday PM - July 11, 2017

Alaska: UFA’s Salmon Habitat Program Launches Sweepstakes to Bring Habitat Info to Fishermen - United Fishermen of Alaska’s Salmon Habitat Information Program (SHIP) has launched two summer sweepstakes to connect with commercial fishermen for important information regarding salmon habitat. Winners will be selected from fishermen who enter the drawing through a text campaign or Facebook comments to win Alaska Airlines and LFS, Inc gift certificates.

Fishermen can text “ufaship” to 313131 and United Fishermen of Alaska (UAF) will text back four chances to win, or participants can go to UFA’s SHIP Facebook page and predict Bristol Bay’s total sockeye salmon harvest. The contests offer prizes of $200 Alaska Airlines or $100 and $50 Alaska Airlines Gift Cards and present exciting ways for fishermen to stay up-to-date. 

“Since the start of this program we have heard from thousands of Alaska fishermen. Fishermen care deeply about all issues related to salmon habitat, from ocean acidification and water quality to in river impacts such as dewatering and blocked fish passage.  We have also learned that fishermen have a variety of preferred communication styles – texting, social media or email - and we created these sweepstakes to increase our reach to fishermen through multiple channels,” said Lindsey Bloom, UFA’s SHIP Program Manager.  - More...
Tuesday PM - July 11, 2017




DAVE KIFFER: We've got spirit, we've got soul, 77, we got old! - Recently I spent some time with a group of really old people, the Ketchikan High School Class of 1977. It was our fortieth high school reunion. Naturally, I have some thoughts about that.

Good evening fellow old people, also known as the Ketchikan High School class of 77. 

Of course at 58, more or less, I could say we are middle aged. But who am I kidding?  We aren’t at the middle of anything, except the buffet line.  In fact, if we were in the Middle Ages we would already be long gone.

Anyway, some of us still have spirit, a few of us still have our souls, but 2027 that’s our (new) goal!

It seems like just yesterday it was 1977 and we were stumbling over each other down the aisles of the old Kayhi auditorium in the dark, trying to remember which foot to put forward at which beat to the melody of “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Come to think of it, it might have actually been yesterday. These days, my short-term memory is about as hazy as a rainy day in Ketchikan, and just about as common. Which graduating class is this?

Oh yes, 1977. My class. I know that because my diploma says 1977. I am actually looking at it right now. I keep it with me at all times. It’s important to have a clue who you are in today’s world.

Some very important Ketchikan people signed it, so it must be true.  Look at these names. Charles Lowery, R.E. Steckl, Alaire Stanton, Ann Graham. Wow, I think those are all my Facebook friends. - More...
Tuesday PM - July 11, 2017

jgp Carl Golden

CARL GOLDEN: GOP's New Healthcare Slogan: Retreat and Regret - Given the ongoing inability of Congressional Republicans to agree on a new national health care program, their seven-year long battle cry of "repeal and replace" Obamacare has been largely silenced and amended to "retreat and regret."

The House of Representatives tried twice to approve a repeal and replace bill and scraped by with a four-vote margin.It's been downhill ever since in the Senate where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised action before the Fourth of July break only to back off because he was unable to round up 50 votes.

The prospects for passage of the Senate bill has grown even dimmer as Senators returned home to confront packs of constituents angry over potentially losing their government subsidized health care.

The "repeal and replace" mantra repeated endlessly by Republicans was typical of the hollowness which afflicts so much of the public debate surrounding complex issues. 

Aside from promises to let free market principles control health care costs, the specifics offered would fill a post-it note.

Shouting "repeal and replace" to political rally crowds may have drawn cheers, but it was little more than the kind of bumper sticker policies common in campaigns. - More...
Tuesday PM - July 11, 2017

jpg Editorial Cartoon: Anger at Congress

Editorial Cartoon: Anger at Congress
By Gary McCoy ©2017, Cagle Cartoons
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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Giving Alaska's oil away By Ray Metcalfe - Alaska doesn't have a budget problem; Alaska has bribery problems, and gullible legislator problems. Alaska allows oil companies to extract fair payment for their services from net oil production revenues. Additionally, they keep 90% of our ownership equity; equity other owner states keep. At today's prices, the big three are making over $17 per barrel plus cost of production and delivery from our oil. (See ConocoPhillips' quarterly reports) That's about $9 Million per day, or $3.2 billion per year. - More...
Tuesday PM - July 11, 2017

NRA Propaganda By Norbert Chaudhary - The politically partisan, hate filled NRA recruiting video posted a few days ago is shocking but sadly not so surprising. - More...
Tuesday PM - July 11, 2017

Budget cuts By Liz Bruce - All this reduction in spending is good but the problem is there are so many promised benefits and retirement we can't afford. You sit in a position where you can vote to keep state employee and teacher benefits intact when we can't afford those benefits as a state. New taxes are regressive and too easy to rely on. Our household has not seen an increase in income since 2011 but we have to live within our budget. It is time for the state to quit promising benefits we can't afford. You can't expect taxpayers to always come up with more. - More...
Tuesday PM - JUly 11, 2017

Fact versus fiction By Rep. Dan Ortiz - As an elected official, it’s my responsibility to keep Alaskans informed with factual and relevant information about the issues that affect them. As I write I’m busy working for you up in Juneau, so here’s a quick rundown of fact versus fiction. - More...
Sunday AM - July 09, 2017

Please Be A Responsible Pet Owner By William J. Miller - We have tried to be good neighbors and have politely asked our neighbor to keep their dog out of our yard as it has unfortunately gotten into the habit of depositing poop outside the entry to our home. The last encounter with the dog resulted in baring of teeth and challenging us. I’m pretty sure there is a leash law in the borough and although we are avid pet lovers and owners, we are at the point of contention in our household as my wife wants to file a formal complaint with animal control but I am reluctant since it will no doubt drive a permanent wedge between neighbors. - More..
Sunday AM - July 09, 2017

Gilmore Hotel By Kitty Meredith - My mother, Mary Patricia Gilmore Fox, told me that she was born in the Gilmore Hotel on October 23, 1905. Her parents, Peter Francis Gilmore and Mary Eleanor Fitzmaurice Gilmore and my mother moved shortly after into a large Victorian house they had built on Grant St., across from Ketchikan School. The house was called “the Irish Castle”. On the front of the house, high up on the tower area, was a large green shamrock. - More...
Sunday Am - July 09, 2017

Tribute to Sol Atkinson By A. M. Johnson - Regarding the tribute to Sol Atkinson, I met Sol during my careers in the early 70's where Metlakatla was involved. Sol must have retired recently to this introduction. He was a standout personality on the first meet without knowing of his military history. - More...
Sunday AM - July 09, 2017

Neutralize North Korean Threat By Donald Moskowitz - North Korea continues to expand its nuclear weapons program and is making progress in developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the Western U.S.  It is working on miniaturizing nuclear weapons to fit on ICBMs by early 2018, and it threatens to attack the U.S. with nuclear warheads. - More...
Sunday AM - July 09, 2017

Traffic suggestions By A. M. Johnson - Nothing better to do than reflect on a couple of issues related to Ketchikan traffic. Our traffic due to restrictive nature of our streets and roads, should be rated at a near 10 on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the most taxing. - More...
Thursday PM - June 29, 2017

A Call to Leadership By Randall Hoffbeck - When, after being in session for 160 days, I began to hear both the House and Senate leadership talking about passing just a budget and going home, I was reminded of a meeting I had last summer with a professor from the University of Potsdam. - More...
Thursday PM - June 29, 2017

Health Care By Ray Metcalfe - By week's end we will know if either of our Alaskan US Senators are willing to concoct an excuse to throw 100,000 Alaskans under the bus for the opportunity to stay in Senator McConnell's good graces. Oddly enough, the same vote will deliver a giant tax break to wealthy families, their families included... And by the way; have you ever wondered why the same industry complaining about the exorbitant costs of insuring their workers also pay lobbyists to lobby against Bernie Sanders proposal to lift the burden from their shoulders with better quality, lower deductible coverage through a single payer system? Bernie wants to expand Medicare to cover every American of every age through Medicare. - More...
Thursday PM - June 29, 2017

Protect Medicaid By David G. Katzeek - One day, we will tell future generations of our choice. Did we help our neighbors when they were sick, or did we ignore their needs? This is the question before all Alaskans when it comes to Medicaid. - More...
Tuesday AM - June 27, 2017

Open Letter: Rep. Jonathan S. Kreiss-Tomkins By Gregg Parsley - Several of us in the Southeast Alaska mariculture industry would like you to look into what it would take to begin the process for Federal Disaster Relief funds for our oyster industry here in Southeast Alaska due to Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP). We, Shikat Bay Oysters, have been shutdown for going on 4 weeks with no relief in sight, we have lost to date over $25,000 and once our parts per unit (ppu) numbers fall below the 80 ppu number we will still have to wait another two weeks before we are able to put oysters back into commerce. I can see us, Shikat Bay Oysters, loosing in excess of $40,000 due to this unusually early and unseasonably PSP outbreak. - More...
Tuesday AM - June 27, 2017

RE: Use for Taku By Kay Taylor - The idea of the Ferry Taku being used for lodging for our representatives to save money is great. We need to stop frittering away dollars. If the Ferry system is good enough for us then it is good enough for our representatives. Moving it to Juneau for housing would solve two problems. We need to cut down on per diem for our traveling representatives. - More...
Tuesday AM - June 27, 2017

Living Within Means By Lance Clark - I think Senator Gardner shows us exactly what the fiscal problem is. Living within our means is not a foreign idea to her, it's an evil one! To be good people we have to always spend more than we have. I don't know her personally but her way of thinking sounds insane. - More...
Tuesday AM - June 27, 2017

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“Hundreds of Alaskans have reached out to my administration saying health care costs are increasingly unaffordable,” Governor Walker said. “This law will provide relief from large premium hikes for

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